Summer is here in Minnesota! And now that we’re getting to a place where we can get outdoors, travel, and do a lot more summer stuff that we couldn’t do last year, we’re going to appreciate it that much more.
With this enthusiasm for summer and enjoying the warm evenings, it easy to become less diligent about schedules and bedtimes. However, a few days and nights of too much summer excitement and extended bedtimes, your child will quickly become exhausted and incapable of enjoying the fun summer days. Which makes for longer days of parenting and dealing with a grumpy, overtired child.
To avoid overtiredness and the unwanted behaviors that comes with it, here are a few tips to keep your child’s sleep on track over the summer.
Dealing with the Extended Daylight
Summer means longer days and sunlight well into the evenings. The sun might not even be down until after your child’s bedtime.
Sunlight is the driver of our circadian rhythm and when it’s light out, it’s hard to fall asleep. This is the reason that we give the families that work with a Tender Transitions sleep coach a darkness scale. So, you can compare your child’s room to the scale and adjust as necessary.
Keeping your child’s room dark, and I mean pitch black, is ideal. Even a small amount of sunlight seeping through the curtains can dramatically affect your child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Blackout blinds and curtains are the simplest solution. There are many options out there that will match your child’s décor. If you can’t find the perfect set, taping up some black garbage bags will work. I know, it’s not pleasing aesthetically, but it beats dealing with an overtired child.
The Importance of Daytime Activity
Getting outside and soaking up the sunshine during the day helps improve your child’s nighttime sleep. So, even though we want to avoid sunlight at bedtime, during the day, it is helpful.
With sun safety in the back of your mind, exposing your child to natural sunlight has a lot of benefits. It helps in the production of Vitamin D, which helps regulate our moods. It also stimulates cortisol production, which despite being known as the stress hormone, is beneficial at the right time and in the right amounts. Sunlight also promotes serotonin production, which enhances your child’s mood during the day. And at night, the pineal gland converts serotonin to melatonin, which helps them fall asleep.
So, the more sunlight that your child gets from running outside, the easier they’ll be able to fall asleep at night.
If you’ve read my other blog posts, you’ll know that I stress consistency. I can’t overstate the importance of a consistent routine and the role it plays in your child’s sleep habits.
And summer is often the time when consistency breaks down.
Why does it break down other than wanting to enjoy the summer evenings? Camping, backyard BBQ’s, travel, family get-togethers, etc. These all contribute to a desire to extend your child’s bedtime.
A consistent routine doesn’t mean you can’t do these things. There is wiggle room; however, just remember that staying up one-night leads to overtiredness the next night. You can expect a bit of struggle on night 2, which can lead to even more overtiredness. And you’re in a cycle of overtiredness and bedtime battles.
So, if you have a late-night, try to balance the routine for a few days afterward, so that the overtiredness cycle doesn’t build up. This will ensure that your child’s happy and well-rested to enjoy those magical summer days.
Diet and Summer Sleep
Yup, diet plays a role in your child’s sleep. And the reason that I am bringing it up in this post is that summer often means more simple carbs and frozen treats. A BBQ isn’t complete without a popsicle or s’more, right?
A significant increase in these simple carbs can mess with your child’s sleep. It is shown that a high carb intake can increase the number of nighttime wakings and reduce the amount of deep sleep your child gets. Therefore, leaving them feeling lethargic and sluggish the next day.
A quick tip is to have some pre-cut veggies and fruit ready to-go for snacks or lunch time, so that you can grab it on the way out the door to the park. If they’re getting most of their calories from a healthy source, a few popsicles and a root beer float shouldn’t have too much of a detrimental effect.
Get Ready for Pre-School Early
It’s probably the last thing on your mind as summer is just starting. However, if your child is home for the summer, start getting back to the routine early. I mean mid-August at the latest!
If you’ve shifted bedtime and morning wakeups while their home, they aren’t going to be able to snap back to the school schedule. It’s best to ease them back into their regular schedule, and the best way to do that is gradually over the course of a couple of weeks. Start moving up your child’s bedtime by 15 minutes every couple of nights for best results.
Which tip is hardest for you during the summer months? Or do you find consistency hard year-round, not just the summer months?
If you are struggling with sleep and want to end your family’s sleepless nights, we’d love to help. Start by grabbing a copy of our free sleep guide, The 5 Steps to Getting Your Child To Sleep Through The Night!